Rolex leads from the front in rewarding excellence
“Explorers, protectors, dreamers, the hope in these dark times.” That’s how James Cameron described the ten winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise (RAE) in November 2016. He may as well have been describing the brand itself. Nowhere was it more evident than at the 40th anniversary of the RAE instituted to mark the 50th anniversary of the classic Rolex Oyster chronometer at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles (yes, where they host the annual Academy Awards). The biennial RAE has recognised 140 laureates from around the world and given a total of $8 million to enable their research into diverse fields that are in tune with the needs of our times. Much of the credit for it should go to the unflappable Rebecca Irvin, Director of Philanthropic Programmes, who is the perfect ambassador for
the luxury brand founded in 1905. Globally, luxury brands are no longer selling mere products. They are selling a story, an idea, a lifestyle. In the case of Rolex, the brand puts its money where its mouth is, selecting pioneers in their field. Irvin talks to Kaveree Bamzai on what drives the Rolex motto for the RAE initiative: With the right amount of passion, anyone can change anything
What does responsible luxury mean to Rolex?
For us it means buying from a company that shares the right values. Rolex supported ethical and responsible consumerism long before corporate social responsibility became mandatory. The RAE and the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative are an example of this. We spend a lot of time and energy identifying and discovering individuals of excellence. We receive hundreds of applications for the ten awards without ever advertising it. Of over 2,000 applicants, 30 finalists between the ages of 23 and 64 were interviewed in Geneva by an international jury. We want to stimulate excellence in the chosen field.
Why is it important to Rolex?
We want to help make things happen. So the award is given not merely for originality of idea but also to expand knowledge in a new way. In 2009 we started the Young Laureates programme. We saw there were budding visionaries between the ages of 18 and 30 who needed help. We give them grants of CHF50,000 to support their projects.
I believe some laureates like Francesco Sauro and Michel Andre who first met at a Rolex ceremony in 2014 are now collaborating?
Yes. Sauro and André are proposing to explore the most silent places on Earth, pioneering an entirely new field of science. Sauro became a Rolex Young Laureate in 2014 for his ambitious plan to investigate, document and interpret the unexplored caverns beneath the remote tepuis, or table-top mountains, of the Amazon region. André won the Rolex Award 2002 to develop a technology to prevent whales and ships colliding. Andre heard Sauro speaking at the 2016 summit organised by Los Angeles Times and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and a collaboration was born. The two are now employing state-of-the-art technology to measure sound in some of the quietest places on the planet, so pioneering the novel field of speleo-acoustics.
THE DREAM TEAM Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy (centre) with the 2016 Rolex Young Laureates
THEATRE OF DREAMS The iconic Dolby Theatre where the Academy awards are hosted